Tendency to interpersonal victimization: seeing oneself as a victim

Tendency to interpersonal victimization: seeing oneself as a victim

In life, bad things happen to all of us. Adversity knocks on all doors. But there are people who respond with resilience and try to take charge of their own destiny by focusing on what they can change as others embark on the path of victimization.

The problem is that playing the role of the victim leads to a passive attitude supported by an external locus of control. Believing we have no power and complaining about what happened will leave us completely at the mercy of circumstances, causing us to lose faith in our ability to move forward.



Tel Aviv University psychologists consider victimization tendency to be a personality trait that affects how people make sense of the world. They called it Tendency for Interpersonal Victimhood-TIV.

What is the tendency to interpersonal victimization?

We can all feel victimized in certain circumstances, especially when we go through situations that we consider unfair. However, when it comes to a recurring interpretation, often unrelated to what actually happened, it can refer to a thought pattern or personality trait.

These researchers define the tendency to interpersonal victimization as “the constant feeling of being a victim, which generalizes to different types of relationships”, which is why it ends up determining how we respond to the world and, above all, to interpersonal relationships.

This personality trait has a special influence on the feelings, thoughts and behaviors we take in the face of painful situations in life. A person with a tendency to victimize will feel powerless to react to adversity and will have a tendency to seek external culprits.

What are people with a tendency to victimization like?

Undoubtedly, interpersonal transgressions are unpleasant and sometimes even unwarranted. But some people are able to ignore and process them and move on while others think about it all the time, assuming the role of victims.



Through a series of studies, these psychologists have found that the tendency to victimize is related to other personality characteristics:

1. Lack of empathy. Although people with a tendency to victimize themselves claim recognition of their pain and suffering, they find it difficult to put themselves in the shoes of others. Poor empathy prevents them from realizing that they are not the only ones suffering and from understanding the possible reasons others have for behaving in a certain way.

2. Need for recognition. The victim needs them to recognize his role. This is why it is often a question of people who proclaim their pain and misfortune in life, with the often unconscious goal of validating the image they have formed of themselves.

3. Ruminations. People with a tendency to victimhood also tend to mull over their problems. They think about it all the time, in such a way that they cannot overcome them, instead increasing the pain and keeping themselves in a vicious circle of suffering.

4. Anxious attachment. It is characterized by the fact that the person feels insecure in interpersonal relationships, which may be a sign that the tendency to victimization may have developed early in life, starting with the relationship with the parents.

5. Moral elitism. People with a tendency to victimize tend to believe that their discomfort and pain puts them above others, so that they can develop a kind of moral superiority.

In one of the experiments, participants had to evaluate scenarios involving another person treating them unpleasantly, by reading a cartoon in which a classmate was described with negative criticism, or by having them participate in a game in which the opponent he almost always won.



Interestingly, in both experiments, people with a greater tendency to interpersonal victimization were more likely to want revenge on anyone who hurt them. In the case of gambling, the desire for revenge resulted in aggressive behavior as people were more likely to take money away from the opponent when they had the opportunity, although they were aware that this decision would not increase their profits .

Participants with a fairly high tendency to interpersonal victimization also reported experiencing more intense negative emotions, revealing that they tend to experience problems more intensely than others. Furthermore, they believed they had a greater right to behave immorally. In practice, the greater the tendency to victimize, the more negative emotions they experienced and the more they felt entitled to behave immorally with others.


In a general sense, these people have a tendency to interpret social situations as if they were a personal offense or attack. They suffer from what is known as interpretative bias (interpretative bias), which also has a projective character because they apply it before events occur, which gives rise to a self-fulfilling prophecy. In practice, they assume in advance that others will behave badly towards them, which leads them to practice defensive behavior that ends up, effectively, generating friction that can cause emotional wounds.

Obviously getting out of that vicious circle is essential if we want to regain control of our life. We all experience negative events and are exposed to injustices, but if we fall into pathological victimization, we will not be able to overcome those experiences and they will continue to exert their unhealthy influence on us. Stopping being a victim is, after all, a way to gain power and give us a new opportunity to overcome what has marked our life so far.


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